U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today submitted a statement to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee urging necessary policy changes and increased funding for the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps plays a critical role in the nation's water infrastructure, but its efforts are hamstrung by a backlog of more than $40 billion in projects and consistent underfunding. It currently has a construction budget of about $1.7 billion, which could easily be spent in Louisiana alone and is not nearly enough to meet the need around the country.
In addition, current policies regarding required project studies result in endless delays and wasted money. Sen. Landrieu is committed to addressing these issues and to advancing flood protection projects throughout the state, including the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain project and Morganza to the Gulf.
Sen. Landrieu submitted her statement for a hearing entitled "Oversight Hearing on Implementation of Corps of Engineers Water Resources Policies."
"The current Corps processes are broken. The Corps spends millions of dollars on project studies that either do not result in construction due to lack of funds or are outdated almost immediately upon completion due to an inefficient and slow process. As you will hear from the Louisiana witnesses, the Corps New Orleans District has imposed wetlands mitigation requirements that have caused flood protection project costs to skyrocket. We must find a better way to combine mitigation with restoration and provide more reasonable solutions for flood protection projects," Sen. Landrieu's statement read.
"While these reforms, and many others, are important, Congress faces an even greater problem, which is a dangerously insufficient investment in water resources infrastructure. Since 2008, the Corps' construction budget has been drastically reduced, yet the nation's backlog in unconstructed, authorized projects is at least $40 billion. The fiscal year 2012 construction budget was only $1.7 billion for the entire country, and we could easily spend this amount in Louisiana alone.
"This near halt in construction funding has dire consequences, and it is most concerning after what learned from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike, and now Isaac in Louisiana-and Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. Wise and timely investment in construction and proper maintenance can save lives and resources, and we are simply not currently making the necessary investments.
"Despite this, the Corps' construction budget has not only been reduced, but has declined each year since Hurricane Katrina as a percentage of GDP. The most frustrating part about this is that the government is still paying, but instead of investing on the front end, we are chasing storms and spending billions on disaster recovery. I can only wonder how many disasters it is going to take for enough of our colleagues to realize that this practice must change. "